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GEONET's new connection to SPAN permits data communication among USGS, NASA, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists. This facilitates worldwide studies of the earth's changing environment, such as global climate change, by giving scientists from many disciplines access to earthscience information. All SPAN hosts can be accessed from GEONET, and all GEONET hosts can be accessed from SPAN.
Responding to a growing need to provide USGS scientists with access to state-of-the-art supercomputing facilities, the USGS installed high-speed circuits from three USGS locations to NSFNET. NSFNET provides communications access to several supercomputer centers in the United States including the San Diego Supercomputer Center, Florida State University, and Los Alamos National Laboratory. Supercomputers will enable better processing of complex earthscience models and are expected to help the USGS make continued progress in understanding earth-science processes. Internetworking with NSFNET is essential to support the data transfers to and from supercomputer sites.
Membership in BITNET provides access to computers at more than 1,500 universities and research centers in the United States and abroad. It provides USGS scientists more opportunities to
exchange information with colleagues in the university community.
The USGS has dozens of offices in locations where on-site network resources are not cost effective. Users at these sites who require data-communications support use FTS, provided by the General Services Administration, or commercial long-distance toll service to connect with desired computing services.
By providing several options for communicating data across the county, the Information Systems Division continues to serve the changing needs of the USGS scientific community.
Data Management for Global Change
By Doug Posson
Dramatic increases in concentrations of certain atmospheric gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane, and various nitrogen oxides, have caused worldwide concern about the relationship between these increases and global temperature changes. To what extent are the activities of man contributing to this greenhouse effect? How do current concentrations of these gases differ from concentrations in earlier geologic times? The worldwide scientific community has begun interdisciplinary programs to answer these and other questions.
GEONET switching nodes backbone
GEONET non-switching nodes spurs
User host sites
4.8 9.6 user terminal circuits
GEONET configuration completed in
The International Council of Scientific Unions is sponsoring the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP). IGBP is coordinating research into the interactions of oceans, land surfaces, the atmosphere, and mankind. IGBP has recognized that, to succeed, the scientists from the different disciplines must know where data relevant to their studies are stored and how the data can be accessed. The Information Systems Division is participating in the data management program of the IGBP to help ensure that the sizable earth-science data holdings of the USGS are readily available to global-change research scientists throughout the world.
To help in this effort, an Interagency Working Group on Data Management for Global Change (IWG) was charged with providing the scientific community with easy access to the data needed to study global change. The principal member agencies of IWG are the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the USGS, the Department of Energy, and the United States Navy. In addition, the Department of Agriculture and Department of State participate as observing member agencies.
Linking The Data
The IWG developed the concept of a Virtual National Data System, to be available in 1995 for use by scientists interested in accessing global-change data, so that the scientists using the system need not be concerned about which agencies have the data. The system will not be a large, centralized data facility. Rather, the data system will use existing data resources to the maximum practicable extent to make access to global-change data as easy and inexpensive as possible for the research community. For example, data centers that already exist within the United States, such as the USGS EROS Data Center in Sioux Falls, S.
Dak., will be accessible via the system so that their data are readily available not only to the scientists affiliated with the USGS but to researchers affiliated with all participating agencies.
At an August 1988 workshop in Moscow, USSR, IWG members presented key concepts of the proposed Virtual National Data System to more than 130 scientists from 27 nations and international organizations. As a result, the philosophy guiding the IWG designs is reflected in the recommendations of the workshop to the IGBP governing body, and the thoughts of the international community are being incorporated into IWG plans.
Within the Federal community, there are also existing networks for data telecommunications. Networking provides the linkages between the data facilities and the data users of the participating agencies. GEONET, the USGS network, is now linked to the networks of NASA, NOAA, and the NSF to provide online access to the data directories and datastorage facilities of each of the agencies.
Finding The Data
Scientists studying global change are faced with a problem: It is difficult to find which agency has data for a given geographical coverage, time period, or specific set of parameters. This is because the data directories of various agencies were developed independently of one another and are not compatible. Also, not all the data sets that have potential for use in global-change studies are referenced in existing data directories.
The IWG agreed to build a directory that would allow the various agencies to search for needed data. This "interoperable" directory was developed by NASA. This directory will, in effect, link all global-change data references in the data directories of each agency to the data directories of the other agencies. ESDD, the Earth Science Data Directory, is the USGS data directory that is being used for this interagency process. ESDD is managed by the Information Systems Division and contains more than 1,700 references to earth-science data sets. A few dozen of the most heavily used USGS data sets have been referenced. The remaining data sets in ESDD are
from 1 or more agencies in 47 States and other Federal agencies, the private sector, and academia. As an example, researchers querying ESDD for data sets relevant to coastal erosion will find references not only to data sets collected and managed by the USGS but also to those in the NASA Master Data Directory, NOAA's National Environmental Data Referral Service, and NSF's earth-science data directories such as those at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
The IWG members have developed a Directory Interchange Format (DIF) that makes it easier to exchange data directory references between agencies' directories. At the same time, each agency is working to develop a more complete set of data references in its directory that will be useful for globalchange research. For example, many earth-science processes in the Arctic, such as the impact of atmospheric temperature on glacial melting, may be significant in the study of global change. The task is to identify such data sets and reference them in the interoperable directory. The USGS Polar Studies Coordinator, under the sponsorship of the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee, is working with Survey scientists interested in Arctic research to load more than 80 USGS references to Arctic data sets into ESDD. Through the mechanisms of the DIF and the interoperable directory, these data references will be accessible to both Arctic and globalchange researchers who use the data directories of the other participating agencies.
Problems To Be Solved
The IWG is working to identify critical areas where obstacles exist to achieving the goals defined by the member agencies. Critical problems facing users of the Virtual National Data System are being addressed. One deals with the realities of pricing and cost accounting for computer and telecommunications services. While costs are kept as low as possible, the data system must have a means of billing for the data, computer time, and telecommunications resources used by each researcher. It must be able to
"balance the books" so that the agency that provides the services receives the appropriate payments for those services. The Information Systems Division chairs the subgroup working on these issues.
Another set of issues deals with standards. The IWG is not attempting to develop data exchange standards, but it is working with the member agencies and the National Institute of Standards and Technology to encourage the use of existing standards as much as possible.
The global-change research community is worldwide. Determining how the IWG will interact with scientists and data organizations in other countries is the purpose of an international subgroup whose goal is identical to the goal of the IWG: to make it as easy as possible for scientists to access global-change data. When foreign scientists seek data from the United States' data system, they will benefit from the work of the IWG (which is to coordinate the data holdings within this country) and share in the costs. Similarly, the IWG will cooperate with international organizations to facilitate access by U.S. scientists to data gathered and managed by institutions in other countries.
Excellence of Service
The Department of the Interior Excellence of Service Award was given as a unit award to the Information Systems Division task force for the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE). The task force worked with OSMRE and contractors to install and implement the Applicant Violator System. The system allows authorities to determine if applicants for mining permits are violators of the requirements of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977. The task force provided technical guidance, user assistance, computer operations and production scheduling, and special service arrangements and handled all service complaints 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from January to October 1987.
Administrative and Facilities
The Administrative Division provides administra-